Expanding Our Impact with New Staff

In the conservation world, change often happens at a frustratingly slow pace. Every so often, however, an issue will gain amazing momentum and great things are suddenly happening all the time. Such is the case with our Pollinator Program here at Xerces. We’ve got a ton of things going on, which has necessitated the addition of some incredibly talented new staff. In this month’s Bring Back the Pollinators newsletter we wanted to introduce you to these new folks, and give a quick overview of some of the things they are working on.


Thelma Heidel-Baker

IPM Specialist (Wisconsin)

Thelma brings a great deal of Integrated Pest Management expertise to Xerces. After finishing her PhD in entomology at the University of Minnesota, she worked in an IPM role at Iowa State University Extension. She is now developing a ground-breaking model pest management system for corn and soybean farmers with Iowa State University, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, and General Mills. This system seeks to reduce pesticide impacts on bees and beneficial insects. In addition to her work with Xerces, Thelma lives on her family’s organic dairy farm in Wisconsin.

Jim Eckberg

Plant Ecologist (Minnesota)

Jim replaces Brianna Borders (who we will miss infinitely!) as Xerces Plant Ecologist. He is taking over our Project Milkweed efforts to increase the nationwide availability of milkweed seed, as well as projects involving the propagation of various other unique and important pollinator plants such as rare native thistles. Jim is finishing his PhD in the Department of Agronomy and Plant Genetics at the University of Minnesota, and brings a deep background in prairie restoration, agriculture, and invasive plant dynamics to our program.

Jarrod Fowler

Pollinator and Conservation Biological Control Specialist (New England)

Jarrod has worked as a habitat restoration consultant, independent bee researcher, and lecturer at the University of Massachusetts. He is now leading our extensive pollinator habitat restoration efforts with fruit and vegetable growers in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and beyond. On the immediate horizon, Jarrod will also be launching a new project with the New Hampshire Association of Conservation Districts and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service to design and test habitat systems for beneficial insects on organic vegetable farms. These systems are intended to increase populations of predatory insects and to reduce the need for insecticides.

Sarah Foltz Jordan

Pollinator Conservation Specialist (Great Lakes)

Sarah recently transferred from Xerces’ Endangered Species Program to the Pollinator Program. Based in Minnesota (where she farms organic apples), Sarah leads our Upper Midwest monarch habitat restoration projects and numerous projects testing prairie restoration using organic (non-herbicide) methods. In just the past few months, she has spearheaded nearly a dozen very successful meadow, prairie, and pollinator garden projects across multiple states.

Emily May

Pollinator Conservation Specialist, Project ICP (Vermont)

Emily is part of our team working with Project ICP (Integrated Crop Pollination), a multi-year project funded by the USDA’s Specialty Crops Research Initiative. Through Project ICP, Emily is supporting outreach and farm education efforts for a multidisciplinary group of university research partners, farmers, and federal agencies, who are collectively developing science-based systems for ensuring crop pollination. The practices at the heart of ICP include the restoration of habitat for native bees, reducing farm practices that negatively impact bees, and the use of managed bees such as honey bees and mason bees. Emily completed her master’s degree in entomology at Michigan State University.

Hillary Sardiñas

Pacific Coast Pollinator Conservation Specialist (California)

Hillary recently finished her PhD at the University of California Berkeley’s Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management where she studied the effects of on-farm habitat enhancement on native bee pollinators of sunflowers.
She adds to our capacity in major agricultural regions such as California’s Central and San Joaquin valleys and the Skagit valley in Washington. Her current focus includes large-scale supply chain projects with various food companies and their farmer-suppliers, helping them establish systems for incentivizing conservation at the farm level.

Jillian Vento

Pollinator Program Administrator (Oregon)

Jillian fills the critical role of coordinating outreach requests and keeping program operations running smoothly. In addition to her work at Xerces, she somehow maintains an incredibly busy schedule volunteering at Portland Audubon’s Wildlife Care Center and working with Signal Fire, an outdoor arts residency program.